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Romanian Justice Minister Florin Iordache walks after delivering a speech following his resignation in Bucharest, Romania February 9, 2017. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/ via REUTERS


By Radu-Sorin Marinas

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian Justice Minister Florin Iordache resigned on Thursday after a decree on corruption that he had drafted triggered a week of mass street protests, international criticism and finally an embarrassing climbdown by the month-old government.

The decree would have effectively shielded dozens of public officials from prosecution for graft and was widely viewed as reversing Romania's drive to tackle endemic graft. The government rescinded the decree on Sunday after the biggest protests seen in the country since the 1989 fall of communism.

"I've submitted my resignation. I say that all that I've done was legal," Iordache told reporters.

The ruling Social Democrats will now propose a replacement and submit the name to President Klaus Iohannis, who has the right to reject it.

Iohannis, a former leader of the centre-right opposition, has strongly criticised the government over the decree. He has also launched a process to hold a national referendum on continuing the fight against corruption.

The government easily survived a vote of no-confidence on Wednesday as it has a large parliamentary majority following an election in December. Parliament must still endorse the government's decision to rescind the decree.

Earlier on Thursday Romania's constitutional court said it would not rule on the decree as it had now been ditched. The country's ombudsman had earlier asked the court to intervene.

The number of anti-government protesters on the streets of Bucharest and other cities has fallen sharply since Sunday, when a quarter of a million people took part.

On Wednesday evening a hardcore group of about 5,000 braved snow and subzero temperatures to demand the resignation of the entire cabinet, chanting "We exist, we resist!"

(Editing by Matt Robinson and Gareth Jones)